Sheffield Yoga Blog, 21 April 2021 – Blog entry 26 … I’m in the press!
Well, we can all agree that 2020 was QUITE a year. I know we’ve all struggled. Some more than others. We have lost a friend to covid. I still can’t believe we’re living through this.
I wrote an article for the Sheffield Telegraph highlighting the struggle of us health and fitness professionals.
And I might even be appearing on the BBC soon…
Sheffield Yoga Blog, 15 March 2021 – Blog entry 25… A workshop…
Workshop… Blending yoga with Somatics – 24 April 2021 at 2pm – 4pm GMT… £15.00
I’ve decided to run a workshop. I don’t teach many. I’m being brave! Teaching two of my greatest loves. Yoga and Somatics.
I started practicing yoga in 1999 and grew more serious about it over the years before becoming a teacher in 2013. My style has changed from Ashtanga, through to Iyengar to one that’s more inquiry based… what FEELS good to me and adjusting so the expression of the pose is felt and true yoga begins.. Ahimsa/Satya. We’re often taught postures that are based around certain rules and cues (feet together, shoulders down, tuck the tailbone) . and guess what…. WE’RE ALL SHAPED DIFFERENTLY… these cues don’t work for all… so nowadays I adapt postures in small ways to bring greater long term benefit physically to me.
Then around 2016-2017 I discovered somatic movement. We are creatures of habit. Habits become ingrained within us and posture and movement that may feel right within our nervous system may actually be painful to us in reality. How we react to the world around us… fight/flight reflexes can leave imprints in our posture and we may feel we are stiffening up – when in reality we’ve just forgotten how to MOVE. So in 2017, I did preliminary trainings and began teaching Somatic movement and in 2018 undertook more training and became a Level 1 Gentle Somatic Yoga teacher.. a set of teachings that blends somatic movement (movement with awareness that rewinds the ageing process within the muscles) with familiar yoga postures. I’ve just completed the next stage.
So rather than in yoga, where a stretch is held, we use pandiculation (what we do when we yawn) to release muscle tension… resetting its natural resting length. In this workshop we will explore Somatics and how to apply it to yoga practice… pandiculating pigeons, cat cow, fold etc. This practice has been revelationary. Long held pain that I’ve accepted was part of me is dissolving as I develop better movement patterns that carry into every day life.
I teach both yoga and somatic movement weekly already (been doing so since 2018) and my yoga classes blend in somatic movement in warm up. It’s a perfect mix and is going down really well with my students.
This workshop is a DEEP DIVE into the processes.
Hope you can come along.
Zoom is perfect for this. Just close your eyes and FEEL.
ENQUIRE @ email@example.com
Sheffield Yoga Blog, 14 March 2021 – Blog entry 24… The Myth of “The Core”
Been reading a fascinating paper on the myth of core stability and back pain.
There’s a big belief that core stability solves back pain. But, core muscles change shape in pregnancy … so how come they’re deemed important when trying to reduce back pain? No muscle is greater than another in solving back pain. Different muscles perform different tasks. Did you know that your Transverse Abdominals’ (eg core) purpose is to assist with pooping and vomiting? Sometimes bracing these muscles in activities can increase spinal compression that might already be present in the body already.
What IS important is your mind! How you perform repetitive activities, how your brain tells you how to walk and stand. Once we begin that process of sensing and feeling can we begin the process of unwinding pain. Whenever I sense pain somewhere in my body (and there will be “go to” places for pain… niggling back or shoulder, for example) I now ask myself “What am I doing to set this off?”. Muscles don’t just hurt. Our mind plays a big part in the story. Am I standing straight, how am I walking? Am I tense?
That’s why I love somatic movement, this is where we perform movements and even lie down and assess how we move. The yoga and somatic movement classes I teach asks us to move with awareness and gain control. Now I’m tuned in to how I move it’s enlightening and I can genuinely feel me making inroads to long held pain.
There’s nothing wrong with being strong though 😀😀😀 I love a plank!
If you want me to help you feel well…. you know where I am…
Sheffield Yoga Blog, 7 December 2020 – Blog entry 23… How’s it all been going???
Well, haven’t I been a naughty little elf then? I’ve not been updating my blog very often, have I??? It’s not like I’ve been having to stay home is it? Oh… yes I have…
So, hasn’t 2020 been an odd year. Staying home for most of it, not seeing family, being scared of passing unwittingly covid to them when we did see them. Not seeing far flung friends, friends close by, not being as free with the ones we could see… home schooling (painful!), adapting to teaching online, losing many students, gaining a few new ones, not travelling, cancelling trips, not seeing my favourite bands, no festivals, no pubs or restaurants, no cinema… We even lost a few friends during the pandemic to covid and cancer. It’s very easy to take 2020 as being a terrible year but… there’s been some lovely parts of it too.
I spent the first UK lockdown with my husband and son, the weather was amazing and we were out running, cycling, walking and even swimming at Chatsworth House during early summer.
We were able to get away. We did 4 mini camping holidays over July and August, travelling to Cornwall, Snowdonia, the Lake District and Loch Lomond, where I was able to indulge in more open water swimming. I did my longest ever cycle ride of over 50 miles with my friends too.
Because of the necessity of moving online, so did my favourite teachers. I’ve been able to indulge, attending regular virtual classes from the comfort of my own home.
I even joined Cook-alongs, learning how to cook Indian dishes from scratch. And a painting course. I’ve been learning how to draw and paint mandalas. I even passed a diploma in Pilates and I’m qualified to teach it. And I’m continuing to learn French but also Spanish online with a local teacher.
I’ve used this year to evolve. Being able to indulge with my favourite teacher has given me the confidence to teach more experimental yet incredibly accessible yoga. To strip away what’s not needed. To embrace functionality and not yoga poses for yoga poses sake and I feel all the better for it. Check out my YouTube channel to see what I mean https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCb8ynchty6brp0cuCsHqZ0A .
I’ll try not to leave it so long. Until next time.
Sheffield Yoga Blog, 13 May 2020 – Blog entry 22…. Musings on Pandiculation
So, I teach Gentle Somatic Yoga (GSY) and Somatics and I always find it difficult to explain what it is. I think people think it’s going to be like Yin Yoga, or maybe like Pilates, or maybe quite energetic. But it’s not. It’s very slow and relaxing. We’re asked to move with little effort, to relax as much as we can and to sense how we move and how we can finesse the movements. My page on Somatics details more on this, but I read this little piece recently by my teacher, James Knight, on one of the main principles used in Somatic movement…. Pandiculation.
Pandiculation is achieved by the mindful choice to engage a specific muscle group. Once the muscle group is sufficiently loaded, then we use body’s weight in combination with the natural force of gravity as information of how to slowly and smoothly disengage the same muscle group. Once this muscle group has reached its fullest range of motion without pain or strain, then we release all muscular effort before moving on to the next repetition. This conscious process helps to re-pattern and strengthen the brain-to-muscle connection so that we can regain voluntary control of our physiology (self-healing). It also resets the muscle to a longer and more optimal length when it is in a resting position. Thus, a person maintains better flexibility, strength, and coordination. This can also be called neuromuscular re-education. I just think it is important to spell out the full process of pandiculation to the client/student.
So there you have it! Any clearer? Hope so! Keep safe xx
Tags: Somatics, Sheffield, Sheffield Somatics, Yoga in Sheffield
Sheffield Yoga Blog, 28 April 2020 – Blog entry 21…. Lockdown yoga
So, we’re locked down…. staying home. My heart goes out to everyone who has been affected. The bravery of EVERYONE facing the communities ❤❤❤.
Looking back at my last entry, I had no idea what was coming. To be fair, I’m mentally coping a lot better than I would have thought. Before lockdown I had a rising panic about what would happen. The idea that schools would close, that our daily lives would cease as we knew it and the fact that people around us would get sick. I was worried for the life I’d built. 13 times a week I was with people teaching them yoga and I was petrified I would get the illness, not know I had it and pass it on. That’s what terrified me the most. Not losing classes or income… that I could be responsible for someone falling ill. Thankfully everyone I knew has stayed well!! But funnily enough, as soon as our Prime Minister said to stop going out, all my worries evaporated. I’m slowly building a new “norm”, home schooling, teaching a few classes in my yoga cave (ok… spare bedroom), exercising a hell of a lot more than I used to, more time to practice yoga FOR ME, trying to cook different meals, sorting the house, doing DIY and painting. I’ve even had my sewing machine out, hemming curtains (the argument me and that machine had…..). Anyway…. I’ve decided to try to learn to press into a hand stand. Arm balances, to me, are wonderful as they mean you’re STRONG! I’ll own up… I’m doing it with an online course via Alo Moves….. I don’t have the patience or the skills to just go into a room and do it alone. Here’s my story so far…
Sheffield Yoga Blog, 6 March 2020 – Blog entry 20
This week and last week it’s been all about feet, hips and walking on both my Somatics and Yoga lessons. The video is self explanatory really. If we pronate in our feet, what’s being carried above the foot might be hurting. This isn’t a magic selling thing but I genuinely feel I’ve made in roads into a long standing pronation by doing these movements. The full class I’ve been teaching includes what’s in the video but then also some yoga postures that invite us to step forwards into the postures (stepping being something most of us do daily). Here’s a picture of my improved left footprint and a video. The left foot feels more released from beneath and I feel I’m carrying myself better. Hurrah!! I blooming love yoga and Somatics and Gentle Somatic Yoga! Practice at own risk xxx
Sheffield Yoga Blog, 3 February 2020 – Blog entry 19
Another video based on my classes this week. It’s all about walking. Strong toes, ankles, knees and feet.
These days my yoga is more about supporting the life I lead and that of my students. Many of us like walking, running, cycling, swimming and climbing so the postures I’m selecting to teach are those that provide support for those actions, largely inspired by an article I read recently that the Australian ballet no longer stretch to warm up, but instead do dynamic movements to support the movements they perform, thus reducing injury (https://dancemagazine.com.au/2019/09/why-the-australian-ballet-dancers-quit-stretching/)
Seems like a no brainer to me… Enjoy…
Sheffield Yoga Blog, 9 January 2020 – Blog entry 18
Making a Sankalpa
What is a Sankalpa? It’s a positive affirmation that can help change or shape your life. Sankalpas aren’t new year resolutions (I feel those set you up to fail…. how many times have we said “I’ll take up running before breakfast” only to manage it a handful of times before going back to your old routine?). Sankalpas can be a powerful tool for helping to make change in life. A Sankalpa is a seed that we consider and plant deep inside and remind ourself of it and over time it can grow and shape our lives.
Sankalpa are generally used in Yoga Nidra (deep relaxation) but we can repeat it like a mantra, whenever we feel it’s useful. Maybe when stressed, when feeling doubtful, maybe first thing in a morning. Anytime. The Sankalpa is a positive and helpful phrase that can bring a positive change over time.
How to choose or create a Sankalpa
Sankalpa (a Sanskrit word) basically translates as ‘resolve’, or ‘will’, or ‘determination’.
The right Sankalpa can reshape our personality and direction in life along positive lines. It may take time to find.
It’s often said that you should make a sankalpa which reflects your deepest hopes and dreams (what is really important to you) so if you’re really interested in finding one, writing a list may help. Helpful steps below…
Sometimes, particularly if you’re stressed or ill, you might choose a temporary Sankalpa. Or maybe you may choose one asks you realise it wasn’t quite right long term. When the sankalpa has worked, you can concentrate on your long term sankalpa.
A sankalpa is always positive. It’s a phrase in the “now”. It’s never a “I will” or “I’m going to” or “I’m not” statement. It’s an “I am” statement. Avoid words that suggest the possibility of failure, such as “try”, or words that remind you of your present condition, so avoid ‘I am less tired / negative / depressed etc’.
Helpful ways to find your Sankalpa
- Make a list of things in your life which you would like to change.
- Review the list and see if any of the things you would like to change stem from the same underlying cause or problem (for example, health, work, money).
- When the list is complete, rank the list. What’s the most important item on the list
- Then ask yourself ‘If I make this change what would I gain?’ (eg health, peace of mind, contentment).
- Review what you have written and see if you can find a sankalpa which is right for you.
Still stuck? Why not see how these work for you?
I am loved
I’m a good friend, parent and partner
I am becoming more balanced and content
I am strong
I am confident
I am more compassionate / loving
I can deal with whatever life brings
I am at peace with myself and good enough
Enjoy your journey!
Sheffield Yoga Blog, 8 January 2020 – Blog entry 17
Wow. New Year. In fact a new decade!! Feeling oooold!!!! I was born in the 20th century…
So, what’s inspiring me right now? Breath is what… long delicious breaths that expand the body from within, that map the torso, the shoulders, the lower abdomen. Breath that makes you feel alive and dreamy. And slow movements and resting within them with a deep breath connection.
So here’s a class with that in mind. Inspired by Armit whose class I attended in Bandipur, Nepal on 24 December. In his open sided classroom overlooking the Himalayas. In a class at 8.30am in which I needed to wear mittens, a hat, a scarf and socks!! A class where I was treated to my very first gong bath. A beautiful lesson and really inspired me in my practice and teachings.
This lesson is a curtailed version of this week’s lesson. I invite you to spend more time with each of these postures and breath practices. Practice at own risk, etc. Enjoy.
Sheffield Yoga Blog, 3 October 2019 – Blog entry 16
I had a summer of camping and fitness. We took a boat to Spain, camping and our way across the North (amazing deserts and canyons), passing through Andorra and the Pyrennees, into France and to the Alps where we did a triathlon, to Paris and to Brugges, Belgium where we cycled to Holland. I ran, swam, paddled and cycled a lot. I also found inspiration in the changing seasons for my yoga lessons this term.
We’ve been practicing autumnal poses, twists, heart openers, slowing movements down, grounded poses. This film, although silent uses those influences.
Moving from child to camel (pushing my knees into the ground from child to initiate the movement) in sending a wave of movement from feet to head, lengthening as I go.
The side movement in lunge opens up the ribcage (ribs are stacked over the hips, keeping lumbar secure).
The sun salutation and the Chair to squat to fold are done with very grounded feet. Pressing through big toe, little toe and (without moving the feet) drawing heels towards each other to ensure hips are stable.
Practice at own risk. Enjoy!
Sheffield Yoga Blog, 25 July 2019 – Blog entry 15
A home yoga practice.
I was asked by my students to teach them a short practice for home. This video was intended to be longer than it is but I ran out of storage on my phone. It’s based around pawanmuktasana and sun salutation.
Practice at own risk, etc.
Sheffield Yoga Blog, 20 June 2019 – Blog entry 14
So I made it onto the radio today, speaking about one of my passions… not yoga (for a change) but Somatics and Gentle Somatic Yoga! I chatted to Sam and Leesh on BBC Radio Sheffield (the beeb!) who were looking after Paulette’ s spot at 10am till 1pm. I’m going to try and get just the clip, but for now their whole show is here and I’m on 80 minutes in approximately, just after Clean Bandit and also again after Abba. We chatted about what it is (learning about your body and how it is… does it lean, does it hurt… and then doing slow, controlled and mindful movements to relax the muscles and restore range of movement and then to observe and enjoy the changes), how relaxing it is, how it started, who I learnt it from (James Knight) and then I actually got them to do a Somatic movement on the radio. I think I’m the only person in the world to try and teach Somatic movement on the radio…. As you do! I think it worked. I didn’t go too deeply into the science as I didn’t want to make people go to sleep. Maybe that would be an evening radio show!! Anyway…. Enjoy hearing my northern tones speaking about something I love! The lessons are listed on my website here on the Lessons and Workshops page.
Sheffield Yoga Blog, 19 June 2019 – Blog entry 13
Obviously, practice at own risk…
Been at it again…. another video, taking a portion of my weekly lessons and filming them. Flying Dragon sequence, to build heat, to incorporate the ayurvedic essence of Fire Into ones yoga practice.
Sheffield Yoga Blog, 12 June 2019 – Blog entry 12
Practice at own risk. A flowing sequence for the arms and shoulders mainly. Incorporating fluidity of water.
Sheffield Yoga Blog, 17 November 2018 – Blog entry 11
Practice at own risk. This week it’s the Warriors.
The myth of the Warrior story goes like this. Virabadra (of Virabadrasana) was a warrior created by Shiva, who wanted to avenge the murder of his wife. So he threw down a lock of his hair on to the floor, creating Virabadra the Warrior.
Warrior 1 is creation of Virabadra, hands aloft holding a sword, Warrior 2 is him arriving at the town of his enemy with his sword fiercely held in front of him, Warrior 3 is him flying through the air with his sword in front of him slicing off his enemy’s head (nice). Humble Warrior is Virabadra bowing at Shiva’s feet
Sun Warrior is apparently the Warrior leaping towards the sun thinking it’s a mango. As you do.
Sheffield Yoga Blog, 15 November 2018 – Blog entry 10
I feel like Captain Kirk each time I write these blog headings (Captain’s Log, Star Date blah blah blah).
Anyway, here’s week commencing 12 November’s somatic start to lessons (practice at own risk, etc). There’s a lecture about bodies and hips to start with too. Knowledge is power and all that. I’ve managed to film the standing sequence too so that will no doubt be posted above. I’m posting on chunks because firstly these films take up masses of space on my camera and secondly it takes well up to an hour to post a 16 minute YouTube clip over WiFi.
Sheffield Yoga Blog, 12 November 2018 -Blog entry 9
I get asked by my students to film my lessons. I’ve never really got around to it….. UNTIL TODAY. This is a portion of last week’s class. We looked at “Now is the moment of instruction”, the very first Yoga Sutra. We went back to basics, exploring a very slow sun salutation (5 breaths each bit) and Triangle, Reverse Triangle and Twisted Parsvakonasana.
Practice is performed at your own risk… I’m not here in person to ensure you’re ok xx
Sheffield Yoga Blog, 25 October 2018 – Blog entry 7
Me again! Long time no write. This does not mean I have been away from yoga.
I had an amazing summer. Following my last entry, I launched the classes I mentioned and have a small following on a Tuesday morning.
I ended teaching for summer, in what I worried would be career suicide, as I took a whole month off to go on a tour of Europe. We drove into France to visit a friend and then we set up camp down in St Emillion territory and then in Spain, staying in Pamplona (no bulls were running whilst we were there), to an amazing campsite just outside Lerida also in Spain (Lleida) called La Noguerra (40° / over 100f in a tent with no tree shade!), into France again to skirt the southern coast – Narbonne and then to the Cote d’Azur to a beautiful village above Nice named Peillon (again, still camping), to a tiny village in Italy on the shores of Lake Como (still camping – but this time right on the edge of the water), then to Venice (still in the tent), to Croatia (Pula – still in the tent), to Slovenia’s stunning Lake Bled (yes, tent…), then to Salzburg in Austria (an actual hotel room!), then to Bavaria in Germany (tent) and then finally into Fontaine sur Ay in Champagne, France staying in a tiny cottage.
I practiced yoga where I could but I took time to indulge my mind – reading a mixture of fiction, a lovely book by Pema Chodron on “How to Meditate” (recommended) and another fine book named “Sivananda Buried Yoga” by Yogi Mayomanand. This book has really influenced how I view yoga at the moment. It is a book about the author’s journey into what he believes is yoga. He very beautifully describes how it is “not gymnastics” but is a journey of the self, through the self to the self, following the arc of Patanjali’s 8 limbs. He described the practices he endured whilst in an ashram – describing ways he applied things like Ahimsa (non violence) and the section on Bramancharya (celibacy) is an eye opener. He beautifully described our connection to the cosmos and our energy – that from the big bang particles through the universe landed on the planets, created dinosaurs, rivers, oceans, stars, skies and us! That sense that WE ARE CONNECTED to everything blew my mind. I cannot believe I had never looked at the world that way. From this I have a real sense of my energy in my practice – that I am not this body with hair, skin and nails – but more that with each breath I take, there is an energy shift within me and I adore tapping into the sensations of energy as I rest following my practice. So THIS has really been part of my teachings over the last 7 weeks.
I have also completed two courses…
Yoga Anatomy via Tiffany Cruikshank and Yoga Medicine (Yoga International course). 20 hours of revision of the human body and how yoga applies to it. I had studied anatomy during my training but not to this depth. Fascinating.
A 32 hour Gentle Somatic Yoga diploma with James Knight. I love Hanna Somatic Education and had done a short course in 2017, and had been blending in somatic movements flows into my classes. I have been lucky enough to be asked to teach 3 workshops on in the past year (April 2018 at Nuffield Health and Wellbeing in Sheffield, May at Jenny’s Yoga and Pilates (run by the lovely Jenny Trickett) also in Sheffield and then also in early September at the same venue). From this I deepened my study and I now am Sheffield’s first Gentle Somatic Yoga teacher and the first teacher in town to teach regular lessons in Hanna Somatics and Gentle Somatic Yoga. I am formally a Gentle Somatic Practitioner. Go me! I have been asked to run another class by some students – so I need to find somewhere to squeeze this in. Also in the pipeline is another workshop hopefully at the Power of Yoga ….
This blog is really dull in terms of photos – so here are a few…
This is me doing the InstaYoga photo – in Lleida.
InstaYoga in Pula, Croatia
A sea cave we found in our canoe in Pula, Croatia.
More InstaYoga – this was taken beside out tent in Como. Please excuse the swim suit.
This is not Loch Ness – this is me doing my daily 1k swims in Lake Como. I did see a water snake shortly after this (they tended to shy away from people) but it certainly got me a bit worried. My goggles were very handy for keeping an eye out for movement on the lake bed after that!
And finally – a sunset in Croatia. The campsite was right by the sea. Crowded campsite – but right by the sea.
Sheffield Yoga Blog, 19 May 2018 – Blog entry 6
So, I heard yesterday that one of the places I teach yoga in is closing (Underground Fitness). I am really sad (not for me) but for the strong lady who owns the gym. She is an independent business woman who opened a small gym in Sheffield, surrounded by all the big names and has stood her ground for a number of years. For personal reasons she is choosing to close. I wish Georgia Hall all the best. But you can turn any personal event into a positive. Another door is opening for her. And so it will for me. Rather than be sad and wonder what to do with my time, I am going to set up a class on my own. Strong! It’s on the timetable already.
Sheffield Yoga Blog, 3 May 2018 – Blog entry 5
Oh how embarrassing!! It’s been an age since I wrote on here. I waste my time on Facebook or Twitter blogging, if I am honest. If by some remote reason you are reading this blog and you want to follow me on there my Facebook is Zoe Marciniak (Life Yoga) – funnily enough and Twitter is Life Yoga Sheffield (funnily enough). I do Instagram from time to time, but to be honest – I don’t actually “get it” (ssshhhh!). As a yoga practitioner I just feel it is a way of showing off how bendy you are most of the time – or showing people the one nice plate of food you have made in the week (so thereby making everyone think that you are an amazing cook and that you eat like that all the time).
So.. what HAS been going on since the last blog? Well…
I undertook some Gentle Somatics Training and have run a workshop on Somatics in April 2018 at Nuffield – which went down well – so well so as someone invited me to run one at their beautiful studio on 12 May 2018 (Jenny’s Yoga Place).
I ran a Marathon in April 2017 (the Paris Marathon!). I managed to knock 20 minutes off my best time, completing it in 4h35 – in 26degrees heat. Beyond astounded. Not the fastest but then not the slowest either.
Here’s me before the race…. you would not like to see the state of me after the race…
I did a Standard Distance Triathlon in Bala (September 2017), which involved throwing myself in a lake and swimming a mile (I think I swam further because it was a bit wiggly – I aimed for the wrong buoy and was left behind at one point), riding 25 miles on a bike and then running 10K. 3h30 later I was done and very proud. Again, not the fastest but then not the slowest either.
I did a Sprint Triathlon and did the 5k run in 25 minutes (I am usually 27 minutes). I either ran my little legs off or they measured the course wrong! Proud anyway. I even cried.
Met a couple of lions in Gambia. Flown in a sea plane in Australia. Visited Dubai, Singapore, Indonesia and The Seychelles. As you do…
I also taught lots and lots of yoga to lots of beautiful people.
I’ve been on some fab weekend workshops- Peter Blackaby (yoga) and Daniel Geldblum (Feldenkrais for Yoga). Both courses were transformative and are informing my teaching and influencing my classes.
Right… running out of time.. school run beckons.
Sheffield Yoga Blog, 15 September 2016 – Blog entry 4
I’m plotting a blog about the low back and the interplay of psoas tightness and hamstrings. Oh this sounds like a fascinating read, I’m sure! Coming soon…
Sheffield Yoga Blog, 14 September 2016 – Blog entry 3
Right, this blog is all about the feet. Well, it is eventually…
Just before my well earned summer break I was kind of burning out from yoga teaching. On top of running a house, doing bits and pieces of bookkeeping and accountancy, I was also teaching anything between 11 and 13 yoga classes a week (on top of practicing for myself). I went away with the intention of having a daily practice, reading yoga books and coming back inspired to teach. What actually happened….
Yoga practice… About zero to 10 minutes of yoga practice every couple of days (usually piggy backed on by my husband), so I would end up teaching him (which is always nice… not moaning) and not necessarily practicing for myself.
Reading yoga books… Almost zero. Instead I read non-yoga books ( I discovered I actually have a penchant for detective stories and the funny blogs of David Thorne (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Home-Then-Chairs-Unpublished-Emails/dp/0615615953)
I also ate lots of creole food. And I mean lots. We went to the Seychelles, which, unless you eat out in restaurants and like spending £30 per person on a main course, even for a standard meal, ie – not that fancy, is all you can eat for a reasonable price. So it was pretty much two weeks of rice and fish. And rice and fish. And rice and fish. And Takamaka rum. (If I mention Takamaka online, will they send me some?)…
I also had an internet and technology detox. I urge EVERYONE to do this! We went to the Seychelles where the hotels we stayed had payable wi-fi so we switched off phones and r-e-l-a-x-e-d. My mind felt so clear as a result. I’m trying not to get into reading Facebook and newspapers online all the time. It’s nice to have more headspace now.
When I did get to reading the books I had planned on reading, Alignment Matters by Katy Bowman – the second time I’ve read this (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Alignment-Matters-First-Five-Years/dp/0989653900/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473859145&sr=8-1&keywords=alignment+matters) and Natural Posture For Painfree Living by Kathleen Porter (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Natural-Posture-Pain-Free-Living-Alignment-ebook/dp/1620550997/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473859175&sr=8-1&keywords=natural+alignment+kathleen+porter ) , I was feeling refreshed and practiced a very grounded yoga. The feet are the root of yoga in many practices – in Scaravelli yoga, the rooting of the feet allow the spine to be free. This adage is true in my yoga practice. Both of these authors are great and worth hunting out. Katy in particular writes in a very accessible way and makes sense of the human body and has made me understand the body in a way not many other writers have before.
My practice is nothing fancy – but it is precise! My current practice starts from the ground up. Aligning the feet, resting the hips over the heels and really “feeling” the lightness over the body as the hips and spine feel suspended over the feet. I love tuning in to that sensation of aligned bones, using my muscles naturally (when the hips are aligned my buttocks work to stabilize my hips – doing the job of what the glutes are designed to do!). If I stand in my natural aligned Tadasana (which is how I stand ALL OF THE TIME now), I can feel my thighs naturally lengthen out to support my body. I am not pushing my hips forward – I am resting them over the heels, aligning my pubic bone and front crest of pelvis and then all tension in my low back, knees and sacrum melt away. I notice that my feet feel like they are not baring too much weight and also my pronating left foot seems to improve. Try it. I do it when I wash up, when I stand waiting for my son to come out of school, when I stand in the house, when I queue in the shop. I even went to a mammoth gig in the summer and whereas previously I would have been wanting to sit down, I just felt happy to stand.
Which brings me back to the feet. I read a crazy article today about Victoria Beckham’s feet. Basically, a newspaper had a photo of her feet in gorgeous shoes but the heels were vertiginous – I could not walk in those shoes. Whilst I am not criticizing her for wearing heels (each to their own), I just cannot do it. I also saw an advert for gel supports for high heel wearers and I just thought it was crazy that these things exist because women feel that we should wear shoes like that. Now, this makes me sound like a high heeled shoe hater. No! I have a fab pair of Vivienne Westwood heeled platforms in my collection which I love (I got them as a treat for myself after I had my son), but I think that time has changed my perspective on heels.
Anyway, it inspired me to post on my Facebook page about wearing high heels. High heels can do the following:
- Change the shape of the foot (muscles between the toes shorten)
- Change how we use our feet, we are resting the weight of our bodies through the ball of the foot and bunions can form, metatarsals can flatten
- Shorten muscles in the leg (being on tiptoes mean that the heel is not grounded and therefore hamstrings over time can become shorter)
- Change how we bear the weight in our legs (pressing the hips forward and then going into compressing the low back) to counteract the change in posture from having an elevated heel
The post prompted some feedback in agreement.
I rarely wear heels. Firstly it was laziness and simplicity – I spend a lot of time nowadays in leggings due to my yoga teaching schedule, and to be honest, leggings and heels on me looks a bit wrong. I cannot carry it off as a look. I also rarely wear makeup (but this is plain laziness on my part – I know I could do with not scaring people in the street with my complexion!). Someone I used to work with said in a horrified voice one time, “I have no idea how you can leave the house without makeup in a morning.” I think she meant it in a self reflective way, but if I can still remember the comment, it stuck in my mind that I must look a bit scary from time to time. But, back to the feet, I rarely wear heels out of choice. I know my favourite Westwood platforms will be worn occasionally to make me look awesome when I go out, but I am embracing flats and having lovely feet! Get them out, walk in the house barefoot, put your fingers between your toes and give them a stretch!
Sheffield Yoga Blog, 20 May 2016 – Blog entry 2
Wow! Has it really been that long since I last updated this? Well, it must be as I am terrified of deleting the website!! I have so far managed to remove all of the photos from the Gallery and the new page won’t load properly. See what I mean???
So, how have I been? Evolving! I am constantly enquiring what yoga means to me and what I should be teaching. I want to be all things to all people. But I have to stay true to myself. I believe that yoga is an amazing form of movement which rights the wrongs of our lifestyles. Prolonged seating (I am sitting as I type!), running (I like running), cycling (yep, guilty) and the way we simply do day to day activities (bending with straight legs!!) can all cause our body to suffer. My whole practice revolves around bringing myself to a posture that doesn’t cause me pain and that enhances my life. But this does not mean that my personal practice is boring, physiotherapy based practice. I love that yoga has brought me strength that I notice when I go rock climbing, hill walking and running. I feel strong and I have great reach through my body. I love trying to bring that same feeling to other people. If only everyone in the world could feel my passion for the physical benefits of yoga.
On the more mental/spiritual side… I wish I could say I was spiritual. I am not and I feel sometimes like a “lesser” yoga teacher for admitting it, in a world of yoga teachers with strong spiritual leanings. But what I do feel is a peace and calmness from my yoga practice and mindfulness practices. It has calmed my crazy soul, giving my brain the time to stop, assess and decide to speak rather than just jumping in with crazy discussions (I do still have a personality though!). I appreciate the serene layer beneath my skin. My mind no longer darts in tangents.
I hope you have enjoyed reading! I’ll try not to leave it so long next time. Right…. how to fix these pages!!!
Sheffield Yoga Blog, 26 November 2014 – Blog entry 1
Yoga, to me is a constantly evolving thing. How can a person have such a rigid view about something that works with their body. Every day a body can feel different. One day it feels tired, another day energised, another day a little stiff.
My current feeling about yoga is that we need to really look after our body for the long-term. We need to ensure we have a good posture, look after our joints and ligaments, as well as our cardiovascular system (the physical level of our bodies) but then also our mental side and “soul”. I am a rational person, and do not follow any particular spiritual practice, but do feel that meditation, yoga nidra, yogic breathing practices (pranayama) are an amazing way to let go and retune the body.
Yoga today for me is working on deep down relaxation of our core (psoas muscles), addressing our social impact on our bodies (the way we sit, our day to day lives, stresses) and how all of this affects the way we move and stand. My aim is to get all of my students to stand with a natural spinal curve, to get them to stand comfortably, bringing a great range of movement to their limbs and flexibility and strength.